CLASSY middle-distance campaigner Laraaib could step up in trip for a shot at the £165,000 Matchbook Yorkshire Cup at York on Friday 17 May.
The Owen Burrows-trained five-year-old signed off for 2018 with a gritty half-length victory in the mile and a half Group 3 Cumberland Lodge Stakes at Ascot. It meant he finished the year on a high after being laid low in midsummer with a viral problem.
The strapping son of Pivotal is lightly-raced and has a fine record of four wins from eight career starts.
On paper Sheikh Hamdan’s horse looks open to further improvement and could return in the John Porter Stakes at Newbury on April 13 before coming under consideration for the York Group Two. That would mean a first crack at a mile and three quarters for Laraaib, which Burrows feels could be within his range.
The Lambourn-based trainer said: “He was a big, unraced two-year-old and then won his first three starts as a three-year-old. I slipped him into the Rose of Lancaster at Haydock and he wasn’t quite right after that so we finished him for the season.
“Last year he started off at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard and was beaten only by Poet’s Word, so I was thrilled with him that day. It went wrong for him at Royal Ascot where he was drawn very high and missed the kick. I took him next to the Princess of Wales’s at Newmarket. He ran so badly that he must have had something wrong with him, hence we did some tests. We had a virus in the yard and he was one that was affected.
“So to get him back to win the Cumberland Lodge was a big performance and he had to really tough it out on very soft ground. He handled conditions well that day but doesn’t need it bottomless.
“If we can keep him healthy I’m hoping for a real productive year with him. He wouldn’t go much further than a Yorkshire Cup distance – I’m not saying he’s a Gold Cup horse or anything like that.
“But he is a good horse to have. He is a five-year-old now with not a lot of mileage on him and, physically, he has done very well. He was always a big-framed horse and he has grown into that. The lads that ride him at home are saying he feels stronger this year, so I’m hoping that there is a bit more improvement from four to five.”
The Matchbook Yorkshire Cup is part of the QIPCO British Champions Series, which showcases 35 of the UK’s finest Flat races. The entry for this year’s renewal includes outstanding stayer, Stradivarius, who landed the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Million in 2018. The colt started his run of success with victory in the Yorkshire Cup last May and his trainer John Gosden has already indicated that will be this season’s starting point. Also in the 34-strong initial entry are fellow middle-distance stars Kew Gardens, Flag of Honour and Capri as well as a series of other fascinating prospects.